Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı
Sahtú Renewable Resources Board


Wednesday, 06 June 2018 21:26

The Inquiry Film

From Description: "The Inquiry Film was shot in the summer of 1976, during the final months of the Berger Inquiry. It features interviews with many key figures in the Inquiry, as well as footage from the community hearings at Rae (Behchokǫ̀) and Colville Lake. This independent film, produced by Arthur Pape and directed by Jesse Nishihata, won the Canadian Film Festival Award for Best Documentary over 90 Minutes in 1977. The film was donated to the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre by Michael Jackson, Special Counsel for the Berger Inquiry."

Read more about the Inquiry in the Final Report: Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland. 

Watch the film on Vimeo or the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre website. 

Access this Resource: 

Nishihata, Jesse. The Inquiry Film. Toronto : CFMDC, 1977.


Saturday, 13 January 2018 11:00

The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry

In a retrospective piece, Justice Berger looks back at his reasons for recommending a 10-year postponement of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, along with his recommendations to create several wildlife sanctuaries in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Contextualized by the time of writing, he comments that neither capitalist nor communist economic systems were equipped or prepared to recognize that sustainable growth and industrialization were not actually sustainable. He makes a case for recognizing finite natural resources and spaces, and considering ecology and diversity as a part of any planning process.

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Berger's impact on northern resource development and the legal legacy of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry has been remembered by many. Read about Berger's current activities in the CBC article: "B.C. makes symbolic choice in retaining Thomas Berger as counsel in Trans Mountain challenge." 

Watch The Inquiry Film, hosted by the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. 

Access this Resource:

Berger, Thomas R. “The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry.Osgood Hall Law Journal 16 (1978): 639-647.


The authors examine the relationship between connectivity, communications infrastructure, and democratic expression and civic participation. In an analysis of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline inquiry and the 2012-2013 Nunavut May River iron ore hearings, the Dalseg and Abele contend that communications technology is essential, but only functional given certain social and organizational conditions. These conditions include: local institutions for citizen mobilization, Indigenous language use, funding, and receptive public institutions.

The authors define a Northern problem they call “knowledge isolation,” which captures the difficulties of sharing essential information across Northern communities quickly, along with a dearth of opportunities to discuss collective decisions. They then turn to a history of northern communications technology, beginning after the Second World War. The introduction of radio in the 1950s through 1970s played an important role in Indigenous communities’ ability to mobilize politically and share knowledge. Television also expanded quickly after the Anik satellite permitted broadcasts to and from the north in 1973.

The Berger Inquiry was broadcast both on television and over CBC radio, along with topical bi-weekly documentaries on Our Native Land. Two Indigenous language broadcasters worked with CBC Northern Service and filed daily reports in seven Indigenous languages: Chipewyan, Dogrib, North and South Slavey, Gwich’in, and Inuktitut. Louie Blondin translated North and South Slavey. These translations were essential to the inquiry’s success, as they ensured that all communities understood the issues at play, and could hear their own perspectives echoed in other places.

From Abstract: 

In a country as large as Canada, connectivity—whether by road, rail, radio, or the Internet—plays an important role in economic growth, political and social development, and civic engagement. The importance of communications infrastructure especially is evident in the northern two-thirds of Canada, where radio, television, and the Internet have been instruments of democratic expression and civic participation. As pressures for resource extraction mount, northern communities must respond to economic, social, and political challenges from a position of geographical and, more significantly, “knowledge” isolation. Northern community residents need effective, community-led channels of communication. Addressing these needs will require both social and technological innovation—which can, fortunately, proceed from an existing base of experience and community expertise. In this article, we analyze two moments in northern public policy discourse in which new communications media played a pivotal role in advancing democratic dialogue in northern Canada: the 1975-7 Mackenzie Valley pipeline inquiry, and the 2012-3 hearings into the Mary River iron ore project in Nunavut. Our goal is to advance understanding of the purposeful use of communications infrastructure to support the development of local understanding, citizen engagement, and opportunities for effective community participation in development decisions. We find that technological capacity is foundational, but effective only under specific social and organizational conditions, which include the existence of appropriate institutions at the local level for citizen mobilization and response, dominance of Indigenous language use by northern citizens, appropriate levels of funding, and receptive public institutions to and through which northern citizens can speak.

Access this Resource: 

Download this paper for free from The Northern Review: http://journals.sfu.ca/nr/index.php/nr/article/view/473/yukoncollege.yk.ca/review

Kennedy Dalseg, Sheena, and Frances Abele. “Language, Distance, Democracy: Development Decision Making and Northern communications.The Northern Review 41 (2015): 207-240.


Excerpt from Summary:

Oil and gas companies now recognize that industrial projects in the Canadian North can only succeed if Aboriginal communities are involved in the assessment of project impacts. Are Aboriginal concerns appropriately addressed through current consultation and participatory processes? Or is the very act of participation used as a means to legitimize project approvals? Where the Rivers Meet is an ethnographic account of Sahtu Dene involvement in the environmental assessment of the Mackenzie Gas Project, a massive pipeline that, if completed, would transport gas from the western subarctic to Alberta, and would have unprecedented effects on Aboriginal communities in the North. Carly A. Dokis reveals that while there has been some progress in establishing avenues for Dene participation in decision-making, the structure of participatory and consultation processes fails to meet expectations of local people by requiring them to participate in ways that are incommensurable with their experiential knowledge and understandings of the environment. Ultimately, Dokis finds that despite Aboriginal involvement, the evaluation of such projects remains rooted in non-local beliefs about the nature of the environment, the commodification of land, and the inevitability of a hydrocarbon-based economy.

Access this Resource: 

Dokis, Carly A. Where the Rivers Meet: Pipelines, Participatory Resource Management, and Aboriginal-State Relations In the Northwest Territories. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015.

Read the Google Book Preview  

From Abstract:

This dissertation examines the ways in which three Aboriginal communities in the Sahtu Region of the Northwest Territories are participating in decisions and activities related to non-renewable resource extraction on Sahtu lands.

Carly Dokis' dissertation was later turned into a book, Where the Rivers Meet. Read about the book and access the Google Book preview on its own item page in this catalogue.   

Access this Resource:

Read the dissertation on the Collections Canada website. 

Read the dissertation from the University of Alberta online repository. 

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7939/R3H12M

Dokis, Carly A. People, Land, and Pipelines: Perspectives of Resource Decision Making Processes in the Sahtu Region, Northwest Territories. Doctoral Thesis, University of Alberta, 2010.

This paper provides an overview of the oil and gas industry’s interest in Arctic and Subarctic regions, and the negotiations between industry, governments, the market, and Indigenous peoples. Many communities face pressure to support development projects. Northern Canada’s Mackenzie Gas Project is the focus of this article, and its interactions with Indigenous peoples in the Mackenzie region. The paper examines both local and industry perspectives, including Indigenous concerns over participation and consultation.

From Abstract:

For the oil and gas industry, Arctic and Subarctic regions are considered to be some of the world's last energy frontiers, increasingly important for meeting global energy demands. As exploration intensifies and oil and gas development occurs in more of the Arctic, indigenous peoples are increasingly concerned about the interest of industry, national governments, and the far-reaching impact of the world market in their homelands. Pressure to sign on to development projects, to communicate and negotiate with industry and governments, and to adapt to a changing environment resulting from the activities of extractive industries is increasing. As a result, some indigenous peoples feel that they are losing control over their homelands and over their livelihoods. This article examines northern Canada's Mackenzie Gas Project and its possible implications for Aboriginal peoples in the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta. The Mackenzie Gas Project would see the development on Aboriginal lands of natural gas from three fields in the Mackenzie Delta area for delivery to markets in Canada and the United States by a pipeline up the Mackenzie Valley. The article looks at some of the key issues of this controversial project, examines local concerns over participation and consultation, and shows how it provides insight into some of the contested perspectives on the future of northern Canada, its peoples and the environment.


The full text of this article is hosted on Energy and Environment and EconPapersbut is not currently open access.

Nuttall, Mark. “Aboriginal participation, consultation, and Canada’s Mackenzie Gas Project.” Energy & Environment 19, no. 5 (2008): 617-634.

This report summarizes proceedings from a Sahtú workshop held in Norman Wells on September 30, 2005. It was the third of three workshops sponsored by the GNWT, held in Inuvik and Fort Simpson. Participants were asked to discuss the positive and negative impacts of the Mackenzie Valley Gas Project in four main areas: employment and income, housing, justice, and health and wellness. They discussed concerns about alcohol and drug use, violent crime, Elder abuse, and the well-being of youth, including youth who are not respectful of Dene traditions.

Access this Resource: 

No PDF. A physical copy of this document was found at the University of Alberta Circumpolar Collection: Cameron Library, call number HN 104 S24 2005.

Lutra Associates. Government of the Northwest Territories-Sahtú Regional Workshop on the Social Impacts of the Mackenzie Valley Gas Project. Norman Wells, 2005.


Chambers draws on the testimony at the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline inquiry, along with other Dene sources, to complicate English/Western ways of speaking, teaching, and thinking about education. Listening to Dene lessons remind us that all knowledge is storied, that communication must balance telling and listening, that a listener is responsible for much interpretation, and that family/community are central to education, as is land. Her paper is followed by some text from the Berger inquiry, along with an interpretation of said testimony.


Western European forms of discourse have been foisted upon the world as the universal value-neutral reference point. External standards have been used to assess aboriginal discourse, particularly in public contexts such as schools and courtrooms. These standards assume that there is one single correct way to proceed (to talk, write, argue, teach), and that ways of knowing and proceeding are universal and foundational. The Dene remind us that all knowledge is "storied," that is, knowing and communicating are always partial (no one knows the whole story) and contextualized (all stories are rooted in a particular time, place, and set of sociocultural conditions). Ethical forms of communication (including teaching/learning) require a balance between narration and listening. Dene elders criticize schooling for teaching children to talk too much. Dene discourse emphasizes restraint, silence, and discernment of the right moment for speaking/writing or listening/interpretation. Dene ways of speaking equalize power differences between speaker and listener. A speaker does not state the point or argument directly. In such a communicative context, the audience assumes much of the responsibility of interpretation. Story, personal experience, and culture must form the basis of curriculum for aboriginal education. This paper contains Dene testimony before the MacKenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry and a detailed rhetorical analysis of that testimony. (SV)

Access this Resource:

The full text of this conference paper can be found on ERIC.

Chambers, Cynthia. “(Other) Ways of Speaking: Lessons from the Dene of Northern Canada.” Presented at the Annual Conference of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Vancouver, British Columbia 4 Mar 1992.


Thesis Abstract:

Ascribing a cash value to the products of the bush activities of the Dene of the Northwest Territories of Canada resulted from a need to demonstrate the significance of these activities in the face of increased northern development. The majority of research in valuation studies occurred during the 1970s and was brought on by proposed large-scale development projects such as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline and the James Bay Hydroelectric Project. Utilizing techniques such as the calculation of the cash value of locally available food products that could substitute for food acquired through hunting, fishing, and gathering, researchers were successful in establishing the importance and viability of subsistence production. However, most researches cautioned that the precise results obtained were exceedingly general and approximate, and did not actually represent the total value of bush products to the people using them. 

With the change in the nature of northern development in the 1980s toward the situation where industry is conducted alongside bush-subsistence activities, the objectives of describing the value of bush production altered. Protection of the ability to undertake these activities, often through compensation or mitigative measures, has required detailed descriptions of the nature of the resources in question. Techniques used during the 1970s to arrive at general cash-equivalent values over large areas were inappripriate for compensation purposes, and, importantly, the factors that could not be included in previous calculation ("intangibles" such as cultural and spiritual value, independence, and teaching children bush skills) required inclusion in any scheme seeking to protect bush activities. Some of these values are described in the context of Dene production activities conducted in the spring and summer of 1984. 

An alternative framework for assessing the significance of the bush-subsistence sector of the Dene economy is propsoed in the form of a political economy/mode of production analysis. The merits of this approach are that it enables the inclusion of aspects that were designated as intangibles in previous studies through its attention to the social relations of production; it is concerned in part with the historical background and thus affords a broader perspective than the limited view of previous valuation studies; and it is possible to analytically separate the cash-market sector from the subsistence sector of the Dene economy, in order to examine the interrelationships between the two. 

Finally, the ability of compensative and mitigative measures to ensure the continued ability of the Dene to conduct their way of life is questionable. Due to the tendency of compensative measures to deal only with specific, fxed, and finite assets, compensation is inappropriate for protecting the fluctuating, systemic, and social resoruces at stake in subsitence production. Ultimately, it is only through the political power to control land-use activites on the land that they require that the Dene way of life, along with their ability to guide and change it, may be protected. 

Access this Resource: 

Available from the University of Alberta.

Smith, Shirleen. Value and compensation: subsistence production in the Dene economy, Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories. MA Thesis, Anthropology, University of Alberta, 1986. 

This report details the findings of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, including a significant assessment of a huge body of land use documentation and oral testimony from Dene peoples in the Mackenzie Valley region.

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Access this Resource: 

Read the full text from the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. 

Read the full text from CAID.

ISBN: 0660007754

Berger, Thomas R. Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland: Report of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, Berger Commission Report. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services, 1977.


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